Flowing from the heart of Yosemite National Park, the Merced River offers up unforgettable whitewater rafting thrills
Most people don’t realize there’s world-class whitewater rafting right outside Yosemite’s back door. If you want to escape the crowds for a day or two or have extra time to spend in the area, consider adding a rafting trip on the Merced River to your Yosemite National Park vacation.
The stunning Wild & Scenic Merced River originates high in the Sierra Nevada before it tumbles and meanders its way through Yosemite National Park. And while rafting within park boundaries is more of a scenic float, just past Yosemite’s Arch Rock Entrance along Hwy 140 in Mariposa County, paddlers can hop on a raft for the day and enjoy the Merced’s rollicking whitewater.
On early-season trips during peak snowmelt (typically April to mid-June), the free-flowing river offers 18 miles of thrilling Class IV whitewater, including some of the best roller coaster wave trains anywhere and memorable rapids like Ned’s Gulch, Split Rock and Corner Pocket. As the snowmelt subsides, the river mellows to a splashy fun, Class III level that’s perfect for adventurous first-timers and families with kids as young as age 9 sometimes lasting into August. The scenery doesn’t disappoint either, especially in the spring when the rugged canyon is blanketed with colorful wildflowers.
If you want to add this trip to your Yosemite itinerary, rafting outfitters like OARS will provide professional guides, all the gear, and even a tasty picnic lunch. All you have to do is show up ready for big fun with your crew.
After a day of heart-pounding thrills, rafters can wind down at nearby Yosemite Bug. Stay the night or just recount the day’s highlight reel as you kick back and enjoy the lodge’s relaxed and social atmosphere. It’s a delightful end to one of the best adventures near Yosemite.
Ready to raft the Merced?
Since 1969, local outfitter OARS has been running whitewater trips on the Merced River. The company offers trips daily April through July. For more info or to book a trip visit: www.oars.com.
In 2019, OARS celebrated its 50th Anniversary. Founded by George and Pam Wendt, the family-owned and operated company, got its start on California’s wild rivers. Since then, what started as a scrappy little mom and pop shop, has grown into one of the most well-respected outfitters in the country, offering rafting, hiking, and multi-sport trips all over the world. Still, their roots remain humble. Today, the company is led by Tyler and Clavey Wendt, George & Pam’s sons, who remain dedicated to their parents’ long legacy of river conservation and sharing a love for wild rivers and places.